LSP Energy

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 19, 2012

By Rupert Howell

LSP Energy’s power producing plant has been shuttered with a technical problem since September 17 according to an unnamed official who later “politely declined” comment.

The absence of steam clouds that usually float above the Batesville power producing facility is a local concern not of power, but of money — tax money in arrears and when it will be paid, actually.

However Panola County Administrator Kelley Magee said millage has been set for the soon-to-be-mailed tax bills and Panola County is acting like the taxes in arrears will get here soon.

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The entity filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy in February of this year owing approximately $4.5 million in local ad valorem taxes while another year’s taxes were accruing.

An auction was held in August with South Mississippi Electric Power Association (SMEPA) the apparent high bidder for approximately $285 million.

Progress of the sale continued, but local leaders knew that the property tax derived from the facility, would no longer be available for county and school purposes as the high bidder is a non-profit  rural power distributing cooperative and exempt from property taxes. Municipal property taxes are not exempt.

Magee explained that not only will the county receive 2011 taxes in arrears, but also interest of one percent a month since they became delinquent in February. She also said 2012 taxes will be due and payable by February 2013, as the taxes are due and payable for whoever owns the property on January 1. In January 1, 2012, LSP still owned the property and had yet to file bankruptcy.

But county and school officials were facing deadlines with state-imposed budget deadlines when the deal was being finalized and were hoping that payment for taxes in arrears would soon be forthcoming.

Now court documents seeking a third extension of time to finalize the sale were approved in Delaware District U.S. Bankruptcy Court yesterday with a tentative hearing set for November 20.
The court filing revealed that the outage at the facility occurred at the same time a hearing to approve the sale was to take place, an outage in all three of the facility’s generating units — an outage that is still ongoing.

The court document also states that “… efforts to repair the facility and investigate both the cause of the outage and the full scope of the damage caused by the outage are ongoing.”
More importantly the court document states, “Despite the ongoing outage, the Debtors and SMEPA have been working diligently to proceed to closing on the approved sale … anticipate(ing) closing on the sale to SMEPA in the latter half of November.”